As the prohibitive and betting favorite to come out of the East, the Celtics have started this season as the hunted. They’ll get the best punch from every team in the NBA, like they did from the Orlando Magic in a 93-90 loss in Game #4. No more is that underdog swagger of year’s past. With LeBron James in Los Angeles, Boston is now the team to beat in the Eastern Conference despite their slow start.
But not everybody is on their heels. There’s still one team above them in the hype pecking order: the Warriors. However, Golden State is looking over their shoulder.
In what might be the greatest example of the NBA sidle, The Athletic’s Sam Amick was
able to bold enough to ask the defending champs who they feared this season. Amick interviewed four Warriors–Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Shaun Livingston–and came up with this main conclusion:
They are clearly paying close attention to Boston – never mind that they don’t play the Celtics until Jan. 26 — and hold Kyrie Irving in extremely high regard. Anyone who remembers his stepback three over Curry from the right wing in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals understands why. Boston big man Al Horford gets all kinds of respect from his Warriors peers as well.
For many of those Warriors, the Celtics are like looking in a mirror. Many of them remarked on how young the Celtics are with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Smart and how each player is long and effective on both sides of the ball. Here’s Livingston on Boston’s depth and youth:
With their young guys, they’ve got some forces, you know what I’m saying? They go one through 10. I mean Houston still is a threat, but you’ve got to throw that (Celtics) team in there. It’s the star power, and it’s the young depth. Cleveland had more older vets (when they beat the Warriors in the 2016 Finals), but they didn’t really have two-way guys (like Boston). They’re the younger version of us. …They pose a threat. Yeah, they pose a threat.
And then there’s their comments on the Celtics two key players, Al Horford and Kyrie Irving. Both Draymond and KD singled out Horford’s ability to switch on the defensive end and be a facilitator in small ball lineups on offense. However, Kyrie’s presence in the Celtics lineup might be what strikes the most fear in Warriors’ hearts. As Amick notes, it was Kyrie, not LeBron, that sunk Golden State back in 2016.
Draymond on Kyrie:
Kyrie has been there and done that, and he’s going to embody that (spirit). Kyrie is going to love that moment, to love being that guy that has been there and showing everyone else the way. And I think that’s what makes them a threat is that (reality that), yeah they have all the pieces, but Kyrie has the experience and I think that’s what makes them great.
The Warriors visit Boston on January 26th and the Celtics will travel out west to battle the Warriors on March 5th. Does the NBA have a fast forward button yet?